I just started reading The Alienist (1994) the first in a series of detective stories by Caleb Carr. The book is a soon-to-be television series, which is due out sometime in 2017.
My first thought was that the word ‘alienist’ was created by the author and wasn’t a bona fide word. Turns out I was wrong and ‘alienist’ is a real word, although not often used nowadays.
OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY
[[Note: The OED has recently introduced a scoring system titled "Frequency (in current use)" with the score ranging from 1 to 8. 'Alienist' scored a 3, but that's higher than I would have expected, but that's probably due to the book .]]
Origin: A borrowing from French. Etymons: French aliéniste, médecin aliéniste.
Etymology: from French aliéniste (1845 or earlier), use as noun of aliéniste (adjective) of or relating to the insane (especially in médecin aliéniste psychiatrist (1835 or earlier)) from alien- (in aliéné insane person (1812), use as noun of past participle of aliéner (reflexive) to become insane: see ALIEN v.) + -iste -IST suffix.
A psychiatrist; (in later use chiefly) specifically one who specializes in acting as an expert in court to assess whether a defendant is sane and can therefore be held criminally responsible for his or her crime.
The following are quotes from the OED:
_____________________________________________[1854 “It is the characteristic of proper asylums for the insane, that by their social and home-like arrangements they alone can realize that modern system which the French aliénists have called the ‘general moral treatment’, and which I would suggest to call the ‘medico-moral treatment of the insane.’”—Asylum Journal, No 6 page 91/2]
<1864 “A distinguished alienist, and Member of the Belgian Lunacy Commission.”—Social Science Review, Vol. 1, page 447>
<1872 “If the two ‘reputable’ physicians were in good repute as alienists, there would be reason in submitting to their judgement the liberty of a citizen.”—Chapters on Social Science (1877) by G.L.Harrison, page 254>
<1881 “All alienists are agreed as to the greater frequency of mental alienation in the summer season.”—in Nature by H. Morselli, 29 December, page 193/2>
1941 “Three alienists have been named in Paris to judge the sanity of Paul Collette, the young Frenchman who wounded Pierre Laval.”—Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), 4 September, Page 1/7>
<1966 “If that was what he thought, he was in urgent need of an alienist.”—When Eight Bells Toll by A. MacLean, viii. page 174>
<1997 “Progressive alienistspinned therapeutic faith on the architecture and atmosphere of their asylums.”—Greatest Benefit to Mankind by R. Porter, xvi. Page 502>
AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY
alienist noun: A physician who has been accepted by a court of law as an expert on the mental competence of principals or witnesses appearing before it.
RANDOM HOUSE WEBSTER’S UNABRIDGED DICTIONARY
1. Formerly, a doctor specializing in the treatment of mental illness.
2. An expert witness in a sanity trial.
Well, I have to wrap it up, I have an appointment with my alienist. (<:)
Ken Greenwald — January 22, 2017